Thursday, August 07, 2008

Linda's Hunan

My favorite restaurant in the world is on Sacramento Street in the heart of San Francisco's Financial District between Montgomery and Kearny.

Its original location was at the corner of Jackson and Kearny Streets, opened in 1974 by the husband-and-wife team of Henry and Diana Chung, but that location was demolished after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

There was quite a to-do in 1976 when Tony Hiss, son of the infamous Alger, wrote a "Talk of the Town" piece in "The New Yorker" which started:
"The Hunan Restaurant, at 853 Kearny Street, in Chinatown, the best Chinese restaurant in the world, has counter space for ten people, tables for twenty..."
The place became a bit too popular, but other restaurants like House of Nanking arrived on the scene and the Hunan stopped being trendy and simply became perfect.

The restaurant serves fresh, spicy Hunan food at low prices, and the mothers and grandmothers laboring all afternoon at hot woks have been feeding me beautifully for over 30 years now.

There are four Henry's Hunan locations around town run by various children and grandchildren of Henry and Diana (who died in 2003), but the Sacramento Street spot is my favorite, mostly because it is presided over by Linda Chung (above) who is one of the nicest people in the world.

On Wednesday the 6th, I stopped in for a very late lunch and found myself the only customer left when the crew sat down for a celebratory birthday lunch for Linda, complete with a huge cake which they insisted on sharing. It felt like being adopted by a large, extended family. Happy birthday, Miss Linda, and may there be many more.


Matthew Hubbard said...

I've only eaten at the one off Broadway below North Beach. I'll have to give this one a try. I love Diana's Meat Pies so much, it's probably a crime in some states.

Nancy Ewart said...

Hooray for Henry's Hunan. I am addicted to their pork dishes; I usually eat at the one South of Market because I am there after buying art supplies at Utrecht and need to replenish my strength. There's nothing like blowing your budget on paint to create a need for pork, spicy food and beer. However, I will now try this one as well. One can't have too many Hunan restaurants to go to.

Pura Vida said...

Great group portrait. What beautiful friends!

Unknown said...

Hi, I'm Linda's daughter, my aunt found this and read it out loud to our family as we celebrated her 60th birthday last Saturday. It was so meaningful to hear your blog post, thank you so much, we all enjoyed it very much. And my mom knew it was you!